As a visual and accessible medium, comics have long been used as educational tools in the fight against HIV and AIDS, providing life saving information about safer sex practices and representing communities and perspectives often erased from public health narratives.
These four new commissions aim to continue this legacy of using comics to bring attention to the AIDS pandemic and to work against stigma by sharing the experiences of people living with HIV.
Just a Pill? by J. Amaro and A. Andrews explores what it means to be "living well" with HIV.
Paco by Carlo Quispe addresses the fear surrounding HIV testing in the gay community.
Strutting to Stop Stigma by Mel Rattue tells the story of Catwalk4Power, a UK-based anti-stigma project led by women living with HIV.
Legalize Positivity by Inés Ixierda and Clio Sady discusses the injustice of HIV criminalization in the United States.
Hear the artists discuss their comics with fellow AIDS activists on the Strip AIDS 2020 podcast, hosted by Alexandro Segade.
Episode 4: Strutting to Stop Stigma | Mel Rattue and Rae Lewis-Thornton.Strip AIDS 2020 takes its title from a comics anthology produced in 1987 by Don Melia and Lionel Gracey-Whitman. The original Strip AIDS gathered together a broad cross-section of both the underground and mainstream comics communities, all of whom donated new and existing strips about HIV/AIDS in a show of solidarity and support, and to raise funds for London Lighthouse, an innovative care center and hospice for people with HIV and AIDS in London, UK. The anthology inspired a US version published in 1988, titled Strip AIDS USA, edited by Trina Robbins, Bill Sienkiewicz and Robert Triptow.
In summer 2021, these commissions will be available in print and featured as part of a larger exhibition about comics and HIV, curated by Paul Sammut for Visual AIDS. Read more about these commissions and the upcoming exhibition on the Visual AIDS blog.
Image descriptions are available as downloadable PDFs on each comic’s page.
Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists, and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.
Paul Sammut is an artist working in London, UK. Sammut has worked with curator Alexandra Terry under the name P.A.S.T. Projects (2010—2015) and ran the queer project space White Cubicle (2012—2017). Currently a member of the queer publishing focussed collective Strange Perfume, Sammut has recently begun publishing under the imprint Valletta House.
Thank you to Joselia Hughes for writing image descriptions and providing critical feedback and emotional labor around the representation of Black women and women of color in Strutting to Stop Stigma.
Strip AIDS 2020 was funded in part by The New York Community Trust DIFFA Fund. The Strip AIDS 2020 website and related programming is funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.